December 23, 2009 Subject:
The Earliest Lady's Riding Book
A charming little volume, less than a hundred pages with about fifty illustrations, many just to be decorative, I can see where this might have convinced the uncertain damsel to give riding a try. Nothing here is dangerously wrong, and much is excellent on sensibly handling an animal, including in emergencies like bolting, kicking, or rearing. Some of the exercises suggested are lower-level dressage. It does not get down to the detail of, say, exactly how to fit the thong on your whip, but that sort of thing is a lead weight of micro-information.
This is the earliest manual I have been able to find on riding sidesaddle, and its own illustrations show saddles with no leaping horn. Its own good chapter on the history of ladies riding makes fairly clear why it has probably no predecessors: riding sidesaddle rather than astride or pillion had only been de rigeur for a couple or few decades (we must remember that the "habite a l'amazone" was a split skirt, and worn in Hyde Park by the likes of Lady Hester Stanhope, of the Chatham-Pitt-Grenville-Stanhope clan of nobles and prime ministers). So until this time, any lady who could not get lessons in sidesaddle simply rode astride (and in the 1750s and later, in men's clothing in the country). As you will see here, it's the Victorians to be who got fussy about women must be distinguishable from men on horseback at a distance and otherwise upset at women riding astride. Though one must agree with the author that a lady riding sidesaddle is hard to beat for elegance on a horse.
So this volume will have to do as the "how to guide" for those riding aside for decades before this. Later authors are far too likely to assume the third horn (2-horned saddles were sold in catalogs through the 1890s, and that's what my friend found for a sidesaddle in the Appalachians), so this may guide you in using your actual 2-horned saddle in real life, not just historical research.
All this in easily understandable, simple, clear English!